Baseball's 99% Solution

By Brian P. Dunleavy
May 8, 2012

The camera cut away fast, but not fast enough.

Attentive viewers of ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball game between Philadelphia and Washington this past weekend still caught a glimpse of the spectator holding a sign that read, "We are the 99%," in reference to the mantra of the "Occupy" movement. Are American sports fans seeking change?

At the concession stands maybe. On Sunday night, the sign was part of a put-on, a group of Philadelphia Phillies fans who have dubbed themselves “Phillies Nation” (every sports team in the U.S. now has a “Nation”) having fun at the expense of the “Occupy” movement and the hometown Nationals, who until recently haven’t had much in the way of fan support. Once ESPN got the joke—the fan’s “Occupy Nationals Park” T-shirts were a dead giveaway—they put the cameras back on the group.

There may not be room for progressive politics in sports, but there is plenty of room for those who want to parody it.

It’s a shame, really. Those Phillies fans reportedly plunked down $120 for those T-shirts and game tickets at Nationals Park because they believed that the Washington baseball team had taken advantage of Philadelphia’s proximity to the nation’s capitol in the recent past and encouraged “Phanatics” (Google it) to drive down I-95 to fill seats. However, now that the Nationals are playing well, they don’t need the Phillies fans’ fannies anymore and there are no ticket “deals” to be had.

So “Phillies Nation” avenged this “disrespect” by… giving the Nationals their hard-earned money and buying tickets to Sunday night’s game.

That’ll show ’em.

Real “Occupiers” may be sports fans—I saw plenty of team caps among the marchers as I watched them parade down Broadway on May 1st—but they would certainly know better than to “protest” by lining the pockets of wealthy team owners. Some individual athletes, in spite of their wealth, might be sympathetic to the cause, but teams and broadcast networks like America just the way it is, thank you very much.

And why wouldn’t they? Whether fans watch the games at home—on cable or satellite TV—or buy tickets and go the ballpark, they make money, even if those game tickets are bought under “protest.” I’m sure those Phillies fans also paid for parking, food and drink at Nationals Park. The Nationals will happily play host to “sit-ins” like that every day of the week.

So “Phillies Nation” may be thrilled with the camera time they got on Sunday night. They may think they made their point, and had their laughs at the expense of real protesters.

I can only hope that by now they’ve realized that the joke is on them.


About the author: Brian P. Dunleavy is a writer who lives in New York.



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